Do I have any chance of getting my money back?
December 17, 2013 9:33 AM   Subscribe

On Oct 28th a friend mailed a package addressed to DirectTV at my local PO. He stood in line for 20 min and then handed the package over. The package was my equipment I was mailing back after canceling service.

The address was a label that DirectTV provided (as well as the box). Fast forward 4 weeks later and $194 was taken from my bank account for not returning equipment. I called DirectTV and was given the numbers on the box to try to track it as it was not received.

I went to my PO and they had no record of receiving the box. I was asked some questions like "did you see them scan the box" and "did you check on line for this" which were said in a very snotty tone. Once the box was handed to them I figure it is there job to handle it but nevertheless, I wrote a complaint to the USPS on Dec 3rd and got a complaint number. I was to have heard from them in 1-2 business says. So far nothing.

So short story is I have no proof of dropping it off at the PO, I do have the numbers from the boxes and I am out $194. I just called the USPS and after an hour on hold I hung up. Do I have a chance in hell of getting this money back?
posted by shaarog to Work & Money (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The post office is usually pretty good about getting stuff where it should go.... eventually. If your return label and the forwarding label were on the box, it should show up at some point.
posted by zug at 9:35 AM on December 17, 2013

It's unlikely, but is it possible the label came from UPS instead? I had a company-provided return label recently that was UPS. Not sure what USPS would do with the box then, but it might be something to look into.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:57 AM on December 17, 2013

So I assume when you go to track the package it says something like "tracking number ##### has been initiated but is pending shipment" or "tracking info has been received but has not been initiated" right? Like, tracking is aware that directv printed the sticker but has no record yet that the sticker has been placed on a box and actually shipped?

If that's the case, then I'll echo zug, saying that as long as your friend did indeed take the package to the post office, there's a pretty good chance that it will--at some date in the future--get shipped to directv.

If there's no information about the tracking number and it says something like "no record found for this number" when you look it up online, then call Directv and give them hell about having sent you a bum sticker. (Though honestly I'd be inclined to call them and give them hell anyway. I have zero experience with directv but my experience with Comcast is such that I'd try to make Comcast reverse the charge no matter what.)

Some alternate theories that might be going on: are you sure (like, really sure, and I'm not trying to be condescending here I'm just saying that it's easy to make mistakes) that this is a USPS package? Is your friend sure that he went to USPS to drop it off? And not like UPS or FedEx or such?

I still say this is directv's problem, though, so call them and ask to be transferred to supervisors on up the line until you get someone who will refund the cost. (Also, go into your directv account RIGHT NOW and de-link your bank account from it. If they want to charge you money, they need to invoice you.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:58 AM on December 17, 2013

Did your friend keep the receipt? Or at least remember what class of service they paid for? (Regular parcel post, insurance, delivery confirmation, anything?) That would be important information to know.

I'd agree that the USPS is good at getting things delivered, but sometimes — and particularly at this time of year, if you don't pay for any sort of guaranteed / day-specific shipping — it can take a surprisingly long time.

I'm also suspicious of the DirectTV side of things. I've definitely sent back RMAed goods and then had the company claim not to receive them, until I pulled out proof of delivery and "suddenly" they found the package "down on the loading dock" (riiiight). By reputation anyway, DirectTV strikes me as the sort of organization that would be shady enough to "misplace" a package if it didn't come with delivery confirmation on it, in order to screw you out of $200. The fault could be on that end as well.

Unfortunately, aside from what you've already done, I don't think there's much that you can do. You could try calling the USPS again after the holidays when they will probably be less swamped.

Although the UPS/USPS label thing is an interestingly unpleasant complication. I'm not sure exactly what would happen if your friend took a package with a prepaid UPS label and gave it over the counter at the Post Office. The USPS and UPS work together but not at that level; it might get sent postage-due to the return address on the package (probably DirectTV), but they might refuse it, and then it'd end up in the Dead Mail bin somewhere. Not good.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:01 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you didn't get tracking or insurance on the package, sorry, but there isn't much you can do... you have no proof that you actually dropped it off at the PO, nor do you have any leverage against either DirectTV or USPS in case the package was lost (or stolen).

Continue to raise hell with both USPS and DirectTV as the odds of getting your money back are better fighting both fronts. DirectTV probably hands out hundreds of these labels a day and they clearly have given no consideration given to cases like yours (by not opting for tracking, insurance, etc), so I'd guess they would cave first.

P.S. This is exactly why I like to manually pay all my bills... having my bank accounts linked to utilities, Comcast, Verizon, etc gives them too much power to charge my account for absurd things like this.
posted by mrrisotto at 10:19 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I also suspect that this was not actually a USPS prepaid label, I have returned all manner of things (although admittedly not to DirectTV) and I have never before in my entire life been given a prepaid USPS label to use. It has always been either UPS or, rarely, FedEx.
posted by elizardbits at 10:19 AM on December 17, 2013

Just to address a few peoples doubts there are usps prepaid return labels. I used to be a mail carrier and would get handed outgoing parcels with them all the time. Also there are some return labels that are for multiple providers. A lot would say that either ups or usps could take them.
posted by mrdrummed at 10:27 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

This just happened to me a couple of months ago. Yes, it was USPS, and yes it's all preprinted.

For me, it just took me a long time to get to the post office because a. I have no car and the nearest one is a half-mile walk lugging an annoying box, b. I'm never home when the post office is open. So, I took a day longer than the mandated two-week deadline they give you. I sent it anyway, giving up on the money back, just to get rid of the box.

They billed me for the box, as I expected, but I didn't expect to get a check from them a month later refunding the fee.

So, it's possible they just haven't gotten the box yet, but eventually will, and will credit you then. That's what happened to me.
posted by General Malaise at 10:34 AM on December 17, 2013

For what it's worth, I recently went through this with Comcast. Even though in this case I did have the tracking information and could plainly see that the equipment had been returned, shipped, and delivered, I still got calls, texts, and emails from them for three solid weeks demanding that I return my equipment. I'm sure if my account had been linked to my bank they would have charged me for nonreturn. All of my "DUDES I CAN SEE THAT YOU RECEIVED THE PACKAGE WHAT THE HELL" fell on deaf ears until I called them myself and told them to knock it the fuck off.

So, I guess what I'm getting at is even if the whole shipment and delivery thing had gone smoothly, they could still be shitty about it. I really think you'll have the most luck taking this up with directv themselves.
posted by phunniemee at 10:43 AM on December 17, 2013

I called DirectTV and was given the numbers on the box to try to track it as it was not received.
What does the USPS website say when you input the tracking number?
posted by soelo at 10:46 AM on December 17, 2013

Thanks for all the feedback. Yes I am sure it was USPS- I read the instructions 3 times to be sure. Yes the label was preprinted and prepaid and instructions said to take to the PO.

Good to know I am not alone. I will be calling DirectTV again to see if it showed up. I do not expect them to do the right thing and credit my account if it shows up.

SOELO: USPS website says no tracking number found.

I think this may be a lost cause since the PO had no record of it even being handed over 5 weeks after it was taken and delivered to them.
posted by shaarog at 11:51 AM on December 17, 2013

In the same vein as soelo's response, you can plug tracking numbers into Google and identify which shipment company it's valid for. It could be that USPS handed off your package to FedEx or UPS.
posted by evoque at 12:06 PM on December 17, 2013

If you post the tracking number here (minus the last three digits for security if you are worried about it) I bet somebody will be able to quickly confirm whose tracking number is it. I concur with the people above who think it was really a UPS tracking label. I've returned equipment to DirecTV a couple of times, and it was always UPS.
posted by COD at 12:13 PM on December 17, 2013

It could be one of those confounding "Mail Innovations" bullshit things. The tracking numbers don't google like the rest of them do, they don't play nicely with any one particular company's tracking software, and they get lost all the damn time. Mail Innovations tracking is here.
posted by phunniemee at 12:16 PM on December 17, 2013

Here are the three numbers I was given by DirectTV-have no clue which is what so I try all three.
posted by shaarog at 1:30 PM on December 17, 2013

I had a different situation, but worth relating.

I called Comcast to cancel my service, and scheduled a pickup of the equipment (cable box and DVR) on the same day the moving company was coming to move me across the country. By 1 pm they hadn't shown up, so I called — several times — and expressed to them how urgent it was that they come and get their equipment. Around 4 pm they said "Sorry. Can't make it. Bring the boxes to us." That was impossible (moving company and toddler to care for, no car to drive, Comcast office 45 minutes away) which I explained, and they said, "Well, that's your problem, not ours." I left the boxes in the house and left the state.

Naturally the bastards billed me $194 for the boxes (I am almost sure it was the exact same amount) and I called and argued and whined and they totally did not budge. So I ignored the bill, and they sent it to collections, and I told the story to collections, and never heard from either Comcast or collections ever again.

In other words, sometimes the collections agency thinks your story is a reasonable one, and they just don't collect, and nothing happens to you.
posted by Capri at 1:31 PM on December 17, 2013

Those are definitely not UPS numbers, so I retract my statement about it possibly being UPS. The first number looks like the numbers I've used when tracking USPS priority mail. The bottom two I have no idea.
posted by COD at 1:37 PM on December 17, 2013

That first number shows up as a fedex package listed as delivered, but I think that may just be a coincidence?
posted by phunniemee at 1:38 PM on December 17, 2013

phunniemee - that's an awfully long number to be a coincidence, and the OP lives in Atlanta. Guessing you found it.
posted by zug at 1:55 PM on December 17, 2013

Also, it cannot be priority mail as those start with 1400 or 9205 according to the USPS.
posted by zug at 1:57 PM on December 17, 2013

Actually, coincidence nothing: the package is listed as delivered before the OP's friend ever sent it.

I think what directv gave you is the tracking number of whatever they used to send you the box in which to return your equipment. And that there just doesn't exist any tracking info for the return package. That would corroborate with this thing I found: FedEx to get the return kit to you, USPS with no tracking to return it. I'd bet dollars to donuts that's what's going on, and that there just isn't any tracking information now. (My guess is that the two shorter numbers they gave you are just internal reference numbers for this account action and have nothing to do with shipping.)

I believe then that it's entirely possible your friend sent it just fine and it got sent just fine and t got delivered just fine and directv is being a bunch of cockbags about this because they can't scan a barcode properly on their end.

How nice of them though to "helpfully" give you their own tracking info to show that yes, you received a return kit from them. YAY AN EMPTY BOX, SO GLAD WE GOT FEDEX SHIPPING FOR THAT. They don't give a crap about paying the extra two bucks for tracking on the return because that's your problem, not theirs.
posted by phunniemee at 2:10 PM on December 17, 2013

If Fed-Ex delivered the return kit isn't it most likely that they wanted the stuff sent back via Fed-Ex? If it was a Fed-Ex label that somehow got by the front clerk at the Post Office it may be sitting in a dead letter pile somewhere within the USPS.
posted by COD at 2:15 PM on December 17, 2013

After reading both of phunniemee's links, it seems that they sent you a package that started with FedEx, was given to USPS and then delivered to you and the reverse should happen to the return: you give to USPS, they give to FedEx and they deliver to DirectTV. Some people in the second linked thread talk about being able to track it once FedEx picks it up, but that took about ten days. I'd call them back and explain that the tracking number they gave you is only for the first part and they need to find another one for the second part. Even if it hasn't been scanned, there should be a second number unless the first number is meant to cover both shipments. I doubt it is, but it may be a specific function FedEx provides for returns.
posted by soelo at 3:53 PM on December 17, 2013

Yes to the above answer. This is called FedEx SmartPost - use this term when you call in to ask for the updated tracking number. Typically when a shipper uses SmartPost (which they did when they sent you the return box, based on the tracking info above), they will also use it for returns.
posted by marmago at 7:59 PM on December 17, 2013

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